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Teachers Deserve A Token Of Appreciation This Holiday Season

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It’s been quite the year, and it would be easy to get caught up in the misery of our own struggles this holiday season. COVID-19 cases and deaths are as high in the U.S. as they have been since the pandemic started, and folks are angry, sad, and frustrated that they can’t see loved ones for Christmas.

I have been guilty at times of ignoring or forgetting to look around at who else may be struggling or working in difficult or dangerous conditions because of the pandemic; I feel stretched too thin to think about anyone but myself on some days. Not seeing others can make it tough to imagine how hard some people are working and it becomes an “out of sight, out of mind” situation. Because kids have been learning online and parents aren’t as involved in the day-to-day running of the classroom through volunteering, it’s easy to miss how hard our teachers are working. But teachers shouldn’t be left in our peripheral vision. Especially not this year. Let me be your conscience and reminder: your kid’s teachers deserve recognition this holiday season.

Teachers have always been heroes, but the pandemic has shown us just how invaluable and strong they are. They have created a brand new way of learning through online platforms. They check temperatures, enforce mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing for the kids in the classroom. They have become contract tracers as well as science and English teachers. Teachers are sacrificing time with their loved ones in order to stay healthy and to keep our kids safely in school. They have turned living rooms and kitchen tables into offices and classrooms while teaching our kids, and sometimes their own too.

I run a part-time cleaning business and every two weeks I enter the house of a 1st grade teacher instructing her group of online learners. The woman’s energy is heartbreakingly beautiful. In the makeshift classroom set up in her family room, she guides her students through lessons, individual sessions, and group share times. She is upbeat and very much in control even though her desk is a mess of screens, post-it notes, and stale snacks. She is also exhausted and worried about the well-being of her students.

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By the time I come in around lunchtime, she is still working on her cup of coffee from early that morning and hasn’t left her chair. She wants to be with her students, but her health makes her high risk, so her job this year is to teach all of the fully remote 1st grade learners in her school district instead. I want to give her a raise, or at least a hot cup of coffee, and I hope to all things good that her students’ guardians make an effort to thank her with a small holiday gift.

You don’t even need to call it a Christmas gift if that’s not your thing. It can be a Dear-God-This-Year-Has-Been-Fucking-Hard-Here’s-To-2021 Gift. I like to give my kids’ teachers gift cards to local restaurants or bookstores. I have also handed out Amazon and Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards. And on the years that were especially tight, I bought a couple of chocolate bars and sent along a card. I know budgets are thin for many of us right now, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money (or even any) to show our teachers appreciation for all they’re doing for our kids and our families right now.

The willingness of my kids’ teachers being in the classroom has allowed me to work full-time. It has allowed my kids to stay engaged with their work and connected to their friends. Teachers have allowed us to find a sense of normalcy and security, and I wish I could give them my weight in gold.

When schools and teachers were scrambling in the spring to figure out a game plan for our kids, we sure as hell missed them. And now that they are working harder than ever to make sure our kids are getting their social, emotional, and educational needs met, we can’t forget about them. This is not the job they signed up for, but our teachers have embraced the challenge and have created some amazing workarounds without asking for much more than our patience. The least we can do is show our appreciation by thanking teachers with gifts, cards, or a thoughtful email before school ends for the year.

Please don’t let the lack of direct interaction decrease the kindness and generosity we extend to our teachers. And if you are your kid’s teacher this school year, let me be the one to tell you what an amazing job you are doing. 2020 has been a shitshow with a lot of tough decisions to make. I know some days feel impossible, but I also know you are working long and exhausting hours to give your kids what they need. Be kind to yourself and keep going. You’re doing important work.

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